Nigeria: ICT Opens New Vista for Youth Empowerment

Nigeria has in the last eight years witnessed the best growth performance since independence partly because of successes in some policies of the government, but it is worrisome that the touted economic growth is without significant reflection on employment.

The World Bank in a report, entitled “Employment and Growth Report” made public at the fourth edition of a Town Hall Meeting organised by the ThisDay Group in 2009 and presented by the chief economist of the bank in Nigeria, Volker Treichel, described the growth in Nigerian economy as ‘jobless growth’.

Minister of Communication Technology, Omobola Johnson said that “In line with the expectations and aspirations of the African Union, the Ministry in partnership with relevant ministries, departments, agencies and the private sector, is striving to not only bridge the existing internal digital divide in Nigeria, but also enhance the livelihoods of Nigerian youths by creating new business opportunities that will eradicate poverty and unemployment”.

She said that all over the world, the issue of unemployment, especially youth unemployment has assumed unprecedented proportions and has in some instances been a significant factor in the overthrow of governments – as witnessed in the Arab Spring uprisings. Youth empowerment and employment has therefore become a priority for countries and governments with high percentage of youth population.

According to the African Economic Outlook, the youth represent 60 per cent of the continent’s total population and this figure is expected to hit over 75 per cent by 2015. Unfortunately more than half of the youth population in Africa lack the required skills and empowerment to make them employable and productive.

Johnson who spoke at the 2011 African Union, AU annual ICT Week with the theme: “ICT, tools for youth empowerment for sustainable development”, said the event is a clarion call for Africa as a continent to recognise the importance of ICTs in national development and job and wealth creation, especially for our youth.

“Nigeria completely identifies with the objectives and vision of the African Union in celebrating the ICT week. Africa truly needs to move from the agricultural/commodity based economies to knowledge economies for the continent to achieve economic development”.

Relevant statistics have revealed that ICTs provide a veritable platform for creating jobs.

India, a developing economy like Nigeria with similar challenges of a youthful population and high levels of poverty and generally poor infrastructure is a great example of a country that has leveraged ICT in a most strategic way to increase GDP and create jobs.

This therefore attests that investment in ICT infrastructure and the adoption of ICT by government and the populace has a direct impact on national development and job creation.

She said the ICT sector can create about 1.3 million jobs in four years, and that there are tremendous opportunities for job creation in the sector that, if properly harnessed, would yield fruits.

The minister said the ICT sector in Nigeria was contributing three and a half per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a figure she said the ministry intended to increase to five per cent in due time.

She, however, lamented that lack of enabling laws in some areas of the industry which the ministry would like to promote was a huge challenge in the quest to achieve its set targets.

“We don’t have laws governing some of the ICT areas we would like to promote. For example in cyber crime and cyber security. We need to ensure that there are consequences for those who commit Internet fraud”.

Johnson then added that “by creating the Ministry of Communication Technology and encouraging collaboration between this ministry and the Ministry of Youth, President Jonathan has already demonstrated a commitment to the leveraging of ICTs for Youth empowerment.

“A few weeks ago, the Ministry of Finance in collaboration with the Ministry of Youth Development, the Ministry of Communication Technology and the private sector unveiled an initiative tagged YouWin (Youth enterprise with innovation in Nigeria ) to ignite the spirit of entrepreneurship in youths and facilitate the creation of more jobs for young Nigerians”.

The CT ministry is also committed to assisting finalists to put their businesses online to take advantage of the unlimited possibilities for exposure and expansion provided by the internet, said the Minister.

Empowerment is about skills and capacity building to be productive and as such a crucial aspect of the empowerment goal is the acquisition of relevant technology skills. Jobs in the ICT industry are not only for computer science and engineering graduates.

“There are a number of technology skills acquisition programmes in the country today that are providing graduates of all disciplines with technology skills that enhance their employability and job readiness. We commend the efforts that these companies and individuals are making. The Ministry’s role is now to accelerate and grow these efforts by bringing together ICT companies, universities and recent graduates in a framework that will equip hundreds of our youth with useful and relevant technology skills and matching those skills with existing and newly created job opportunities as the ICT industry grows.”

The software development industry, she noted, portends great opportunity for the youth. The Ministry in conjunction with the National Information Technology Development Agency, (NITDA) is in the process of fine tuning modalities to create an enabling environment for software development to thrive and grow. This enabling environment will include technology incubation centres, specialised funding for software developers and funding for research and development in the IT industry to identify software needs amongst other things.

The minister hinted that the most powerful enabling environment that government can provide is ubiquitous cost effective ICT infrastructure that will facilitate access to the internet for tens of millions of Nigerians which will in turn drive digital content creation, value added services, call centre operations, domestic business process outsourcing, assembly and distribution of devices, maintenance and repairs of these devices, all employing a significant number of empowered and skilled youth.

But Minister of Youth Development, Bolaji at the ICT week event noted that there are seven million youths in Nigeria today but that with the launch of YouWin, the government is making a bold statement in tackling unemployment.

He assured that the process of selecting winning proposals will be credible and transparent.

“We have the primary responsibility of ensuring that it is done well because at the end of the day our performance will be judged by the number of entrepreneurs that emerged from that.”

He explained that only very few people have access to the proposal being submitted and they are those that have direct responsibility for assessment and evaluation. They were made to sign an oath of integrity that they will protect whatever information comes to them.”

Violation will be most severely dealt with. We have taken reasonable precautions to ensure that people’s ideas are protected to the best of our ability,” he assured.

 

Source:- All Africa.Com –  Ngozi Oboh – 27 November 2011